UFC 219: Not for Casual Fans? Who Cares. #SimonSays

The UFC’s year-end shows are typically blockbuster events that receive enormous
promotion and hype. Last year featured headliners Nunes/Rousey while the year
before had Aldo/McGregor.

Although UFC 219 is a very solid card it lacks the fundamental reach of its predecessors but whether or not that is a bad thing depends on one’s perspective.

With the absence of both McGregor and Rousey (in the UFC) for the calendar year; the company has dealt with an unsurprising drop in ratings. In 2016 and 2015 the UFC was able to reach out to their two biggest stars to anchor their year-end cards but that is a luxury they can no longer afford. Instead the UFC has resorted to stocking their final event with the kind of meat and potatoes fighters fans know and love.

There is not a lot of flash on UFC 219 and that is okay. Besides Holly Holm perhaps earning some degree of popularity following her KO of Ronda Rousey; there really is little casual appeal in this card. This lack of interest has been exacerbated by the lack of promotion that has surrounded the event. The UFC has surmised that marketing the card would be either a total waste of capital or simply have too negligible of an effect to be worthwhile.

In this relative media vacuum the only people truly excited about 219 are the hardcore fans and that is, in many ways, refreshing.

If it is true that the majority of fan interest surrounding the card will be as a result of the UFC’s hardcore base then there is no doubt which singular fight has attracted the most attention.

The UFC’s 2017 has featured a number of extremely disappointing canceled bouts. Whether from failed weight cuts, injuries, or legal disputes, there appeared to be a rampant and constant series of fights that just fell threw. Of all those fights, from Cruz/Rivera to Lewis/Werdum to Alves/Perry, there was no bout that brought more anguish, more despair as a result of its cancellation than Ferguson/Nurmagomedov.

Although that spectacular matchup has not been rebooked, and perhaps may never happen, UFC 219 will give fans one of equal and arguably superior expectation.

Many people have spoken of UFC 219’s co-main event as the classic grappler versus striker matchup. They have touted the explosiveness of Barbosa and the tenacity of “The Eagle”. They have spoken of weight cutting and of the quiet camp in New Jersey. And though it is an obvious fact; few have really touched upon the enormity of the bout itself.

It is very rare in MMA to see a truly elite contest take place. I would argue the last such example was at UFC 217 when T.J. Dillashaw was able to win back his title against Cody Garbrant. Since that event we have seen some very high-level bouts but there has always been a slight caveat to those contests. For example, the main event of UFC 218 was undoubtedly featured two incredibly talented athletes but the ratio there wasn’t exactly 1:1. Aldo went into that fight on short notice, was badly beaten in the first bout and had clearly declined since his days of Featherweight supremacy. The same too can be said for Ferguson/Lee. Although Ferguson is clearly of elite status, the relative inexperience of Lee combined with his staph infection made that fight decidedly unequal. None of these mitigating circumstances will be present for Nurmagomedov/Barbosa, that is of course, should it happen.

Both the Barbosa and the Dagestan native are in the prime of their careers. They have had ample time to prepare. They sit at #2 and #4 in the most talent-filled division in the world. They each ride impressive win streaks that feature dominant performances and staggering finishes. These types of fights really only happen a handful of times a year and in that sense 219 has lived up to the precedent set by the end of year cards of yore.

UFC 219 does not have the name power needed to sell more than two or three hundred thousand buys. It isn’t stacked like one of their tent pole events and doesn’t feature the big names that casual fans recognize. For hardcore fans though, this card is a dream. More specifically, the night’s co-main event will be one of those rare instances in which two of the world’s very best will compete for herculean status.

With the Lightweight division in turmoil their futures will be unclear but it can
easily be argued that the winner of Saturday’s co-main event is one of the best
fighters alive.

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